Even after suffering a bullet wound during World War II in a battle on Okinawa, Bill Bolger stuck to his orders and focused on the safety of his fellow U.S. Marines. While wounded and taking cover in a drainage ditch, he followed orders and remained on the radio, calling for mortar fire until the coast was clear and the wounded could be evacuated.
Bill spent his recovery helping to write mail for fellow servicemen who were too seriously injured to write for themselves. He refused a chance to be sent to a base hospital in Saipan and, instead, rejoined his outfit two weeks later.
For his heroism, he received a Presidential Citation in September 1945 and was discharged seven months later, in April 1946.
Nearly 75 years later, Bill is still collecting honors – this time from JourneyCare’s We Honor Veterans program.
“It is so important that we recognize the service and sacrifice of the veteran patients we are privileged to serve,” Linda Rockwell, JourneyCare Veterans Program Manager, says. “This is an important part of life review for our patients, their families, and even our veteran volunteers who help with this effort.”
JourneyCare’s We Honor Veterans program conducts pinning ceremonies to honor patients like Bill, which typically include members of the patient’s care team, family, friends and one or more veteran volunteers who conduct the ceremony while all are gathered together. The pinning can include music, the pinning from one veteran to another, and the sharing of military service memories from everyone present.
But due to restrictions created by COVID-19, these ceremonies cannot always happen in person today. That’s why the We Honor Veterans team has worked hard to ensure they adapt and continue to honor patients like Bill – using technology. Bill’s pinning was conducted online this summer, with members of his JourneyCare care team at his side, members of his family gathered virtually on his computer screen, and veteran volunteers Bob Rakstang, Paul Kim and fellow Marine Jim Richardson also appearing online to lead the honors.
Additionally, the We Honor Veterans team conducted another pinning this summer for another veteran patient who lives in an assisted living facility with his wife. The couple had not seen their children for months due to COVID-19 precautions, so the JourneyCare team worked to organize another virtual pinning, with his wife by his side and their entire family logged in online to see the special moment.
“We hear from families how much they appreciate these acknowledgements and that is why we continue working to make these moments happen for patients at the end of life, even if it takes a few extra steps,” Rockwell said.
She added that JourneyCare is the only hospice program in the Chicago area currently offering virtual pinning ceremonies.
JourneyCare’s We Honor Veteran’s program served nearly 1,500 veterans last year by meeting their unique needs as they face the end of life. In addition to pinning ceremonies to honor service, the program offers staff that is specially trained to screen, recognize and respond to any unique physical or emotional needs that result from military service; emotional and spiritual support from social workers and chaplains, including assistance in planning military funerals; help obtaining military benefits and more. To learn more about We Honor Veterans, visit journeycare.org/we-honor-veterans.